Parenting

PROGRAMMING GOOD BEHAVIOR

This article deals with changing behavior, best to instill good behavior as early as possible.  I am teaching nine month old Ben what “No” and “Yes” mean.  Some will think that is too young, but Ben is has learned “No” means he isn’t going to get to do what he wants.  Learning “No” doesn’t make him happy, but keeps him safe as lots of time what he wants to do is chew on electrical wires.  More about that after you read the article.  It starts with a story about a parent weaning his family from spending money on weekends.

How do you create a new habit? – CSMonitor.com

Good behavior is a habit and the earlier you start teaching a child that particular habit the better. The author the article says start with simple rules.  So here are my simple rules for defining good behavior is.  I define good behavior as following four rules:

  1. Respect self
  2. Respect others
  3. Respect property
  4. Respect laws that promote the above
The “Communication is key” parents, those who write books like How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Parent Effectiveness Training, got something wrong in their efforts to improve parenting. Their theory applies well to teenagers taught  core values during those few years parents can teach values.  Adolescents, and adolescence can start as young as ten or eleven, learn by testing parental beliefs and values against those of friends, the media, and their own life experiences.
Parent Effectiveness Training says children learn best from natural consequences.  That works with adolescents, but doesn’t work when applied to children under six or seven.  Such children need adult supervision to keep them safe.  Moreover, at that age children think “Might makes right.”  Translated into everyday lingo–if a child can get away with something, he or she thinks that is right; if the parent prevents or punishes certain behaviors the child thinks the parent is right and the behavior wrong.
The article also suggests that you really have to want the change.  Most loving parents want to keep their children happy.  Indeed,  a baby’s crying is designed to make parents tend to the baby by creating discomfort in the care providing adult when the baby cries.  Important for the child’s survival.  As is learning not to chew on electrical wires.  Parents are often more involved in keeping a toddler from crying than worrying about teaching right from wrong.  Not always helpful, for the earlier you start teaching some things, the more firmly they are implanted.  I am passionate about helping children learn my four rules and I see some tears as the price I have to pay.
When teaching a nine month old the meaning of “No,”  the trick is to combine consistent denial of unacceptable behavior  with rewards for good behavior.   Ben wants to eat all the computer wires under my desk.  When he heads for the wires, I let him get close, then block his way and say a stern “No” before picking him up and interesting him in something else.  The reward is the something interesting  that he is allowed to do.  It took less than a day for “No” to stop him in his tracks and turn his curiosity into protest. Once it was clear he knew the meaning of “No,”  I started adding “Yes” to his vocabulary,  by saying “Yes” when I saw him crawling toward something safe to play with.  I also have added “Yes” with clapping and applause when he is doing something that merits approval.
Other things to keep in mind:
  1. Consistency really matters if you want the “No” firmly planted.  Ben is driven and heads repeatedly for the computer wires.  He does not yet have the control to stop without my command.  That comes later in life.   So I have to watch and keep him safe and not just from chewing on wires.  Every time I do, I am also teaching what “No” means.  In a month or so I will start adding the word “Danger” to my know.
  2. Too many “No-s” don’t work.  The first one should just involve safety issues.
  3. No punishment beyond keeping a  child this age from doing what he wants is needed.  At times that may involve putting him in what I call the Toddler’s time out–a loving lap hold, until he is calm.
  4. Parents need to stay calm and not get upset if the child protests.  Learning the meaning of “No” is very important at this age and the protests are usually quite brief.  This is where emotional fitness training is helpful.
When the child no longer believes in magical things–Santa Claus, fairies, that toys can talk, or that the people on television are real–it is time to switch to the “Lets Make a Deal” approach. The loss of those beliefs signals the entry in to what the experts call Concrete Thought.  In terms of right and wrong, the child now thinks more in terms of reward and punishment as well as “You do something for me and I’ll do something for you.  The child can also  control his or her behavior enough to  agree to behavior contracts.   Earning points  by good behavior and getting rewards for such behavior works for those at  this level.  The rewards must be age appropriate in order to be effective; older teens need money and expanded privileges; adults need a pay check.
In terms of changing bad habits, the article is a good start.  For help applying it to teenagers, stay tuned or buy  When Good Kids Do Bad Things or Parents Are People Too.  For more specific advice Email or telephone consultations are available by going to Services and Products on my web page.   Stay strong.

Agree or disagree, comments are always welcomed.

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